Volume 46, Issue 6 - July 2011

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No Excuses
How Glazing Safety Managers Make Sure Their Training is Followed

All reputable contract glazing companies have a safety program in place—that’s a given. And no one goes to work in the morning thinking: “I just don’t feel like messing with the safety harness today—I’ll leave safety up to chance.” But all it takes is one forgetful moment to lead to a workplace accident or, worse, tragedy.

Several safety-minded glazing professionals responded to USGlass Magazines’ request for tips to help drill home the point that safety should always be the first consideration, on every job:
• Michael Berkun, president of Suntech of Connecticut Inc. in North Branford, Conn.;

• Alan Burke, safety manager for Harmon Inc. in Minneapolis ;

• Scott Haber, a managing partner with W&W Glass in Nanuet, N.Y.; and

• Jayne Veile, vice president of project management for Hilboldt Curtainwall in Saint Louis.

Read their tips here.

Think “safety first” when you hire

“If you had to ask ‘what’s the single most critical part of our safety program,’ it’s starting in the hiring process,” Berkun says. “We prescreen all of our employees.”

He explains that all new hires fill out a safety questionnaire. “It asks a series of questions about all the different training and certifications that they have, etc. Just by stating their training and certifications, we can tell what kind of person they are. If they go for advanced training it means they care about their career.”

Just as safety is a metric for hiring, it’s one of only two the company uses for firing. “Really the only two ways to get fired from our company are safety violations and chronic tardiness, and that’s been a company policy for 30 years,” Berkun says. He adds,

“We just employ construction workers who have a good inner ethic.”

Train, follow-up the training and repeat—frequently
Berkun says that the money his company is able to save on worker’s compensation insurance, as a result of its good safety record, is directly reinvested in regular training. “Last summer we had the safety trainer come in and we recertified everyone on the boom lift, scissor lift and suspended scaffold training—we got them all recertified. That’s an ongoing thing.”
All W & W Glass Co. employees are required to participate in weekly toolbox safety talks about new issues. “Each worker is required to participate and sign the toolbox safety talk worksheet,” Haber says. “Our foreman on each site has weekly meetings with the site safety managers strictly regarding safety. On most jobsites, we are required to complete a pre-task plan of new activities. The pre-task plan includes a written description of the activities and then a meeting is held with the site safety manager, our project manager and our foreman to review and discuss the activity.”
Burke says that a safety coordinator is assigned to each of Harmon’s locations to ensure that the training is being used. “The safety coordinators are required to do a safety inspection each week and the project managers are required to do a safety inspection once a month. Trust but verify,” Burke adds.

Follow the rules
Haber says that while his company does receive OSHA’s standard publications, they do not have direct involvement from OSHA. “The work rules in New York City have become more focused on worker’s safety and permitting for special lifting operations,” he says, but adds, “Our corporate safety manual is constantly being updated to keep up with the new OSHA regulations. All of our workers are required to have OSHA ten-hour training to work on any site in New York City. This is a NYC requirement.”

Berkun points out that extra training has to be provided as the rules change.

“For instance, week after next we’ll bring in a safety trainer and we’re bringing in 20 guys and they’re all going to get crane [training]—there’s a new crane regulation that came out this year and they’re all going to get crane signaling and rigging certification.”

Follow the rules even when the GC doesn’t seem to want to
Berkun calls it the biggest safety issue many glazing contractors will face: “selective safety instructions from the general contractor.”

As he explains, “All the general contractors now have major safety programs. They have safety directors, they’ll have a safety guy onsite, they have safety programs, and they’re very demanding. There’s a lot of paperwork, a lot of meetings. However, when they get into a schedule crunch, they have no problem directing you to put your men actively in harm’s way.”

For example, Berkun continues, “They’ll demand we put our guys out on boom lifts when they’re covered in ice and snow. They’ll demand we go out in wind and inclement weather when it’s really not fit to be out there but they don’t feel they can lose a day of construction. I’ve seen [general contractors] send their guys out on scaffolds when the planks are covered in ice … It’s very disturbing that they don’t practice what they preach. They’ll have a safety guy go out and tell you that you have to do it a certain way, but they don’t practice it.”

Berkun says that he documents unsafe working conditions with photos when do they come up so that he’ll have some response to the general’s trail of paperwork, should a problem arise from taking glaziers out of an unsafe condition.

“They’ll often push the safety paperwork harder than the actual jobsite safety. I don’t mind doing the safety paperwork because it puts you in a frame of mind to pay attention to safety, however, they’ll often push the paperwork and then neglect the actual job conditions,” Berkun says.

Take advantage of available resources
Some glass companies receive assistance from OSHA. “At our Minneapolis location our safety coordinator has worked with the local Minnesota OSHA office to purchase safety equipment that reduces hazards in the workplace and the cost is split 50/50,” Burke explains. “Harmon and OSHA have provided fall protection and a variety of ergonomic-type devices. Also, whenever our GC is engaged with the OSHA Voluntary Protection Programs we will aggressively work with the GC and OSHA to comply with and aid in the all aspects of the program.”

Veile points to another overlooked resource.

“We talk to our insurance provider a lot. He gives us ideas,” Veile says. “He always does a review of our safety plan, especially when we bid jobs. Every general and owner now has their own safety plans, so we have him review those and he tells us what might be a problem. He’ll say, ‘you’re going to have to watch your guys for this, your guys are not going to want to do this but they’ve got to, let them know upfront.’ That seems to work really well, working with our insurance company to look for the things that are changing, that are job-specific, that are over and beyond the typical [requirements]. … Even when we’re bidding jobs, of course the safety plan is in the bid document, but he’ll look at it and review and tell us these are the things you’re going to have problems with.”

Add incentive
Even if a glazier believes himself to be Superman, keeping one’s job seems like a pretty big incentive to follow safety protocol. But who doesn’t have an off day (besides, we hope, surgeons and air traffic controllers) every now and again?

As an extra incentive for employees, some companies reward employees for their safety efforts. “Harmon has a safety incentive that rewards individuals who, on a monthly basis, do not have a safety violation, recordable injury and complete their monthly safety training,” Burke says. “The award is redeemable at a major retail store where they can use it to purchase a variety of goods, from clothing to tools.”

“We do a lot of what the general contractors do,” Veile adds. “The generals have monthly lunches, give away prizes and things like that. We do that with our guys too and we make sure they have everything [they need], so they don’t have an excuse for it. Because, really, there isn’t one.”

 

 


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